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How Do I Explain Psychedelic Therapy to Someone?

Whether you’re in the process of deciding to embark on a journey of healing with psychedelic therapy, or are currently moving through a therapeutic protocol, you may find yourself in situations where you want to explain the process in more detail. Perhaps a friend is asking you, a family member is inquiring, or you’re trying to explain the process to a colleague at work.

Whatever the reason may be, it’s not always easy to put your experiences, intentions, outcomes, or aims into words —and it’s not always necessary to do so. This piece explores the process of explaining psychedelic therapy in general, and your unique experiences, to others who may be asking or are interested.

Do I Need to Share My Story?

To begin, it’s important to address whether or not you need to share your experiences or reasons for treatment at all.

The decision to enter any therapeutic program is a personal one. It is a decision made by yourself, for yourself. First and foremost, this experience is for you, your healing, and your wholeness. If there is any aspect of sharing that you feel moves you away from the healing process, honor that feeling and instead choose to keep your stories your own.

There is a reason for this: we are social creatures. We react to and value the opinions of others, it’s a built-in response mechanism. If you have a transformative experience or an important moment throughout your program, it is not received as you may have expected or wished when sharing, the other person's reaction to this news can impact you.

As you can be in a sensitive integration window while sharing this news, these reactions can remove some personal enthusiasm about the experiences, foster doubt in the significance of the experience, or have you question the benefits you received. It’s not a guarantee that this will happen. Sometimes sharing your story can be highly generative, where you benefit greatly from sharing. However, this is something worth considering before sharing the personal details of your experiences.

You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and if you don’t feel comfortable sharing something, you can simply draw a boundary and say that you’d like to keep that information private or don’t feel like sharing at that time. You can also communicate that perhaps at another time in the future would be better for you.

This is individual work, and the decision to share or not is your individual choice. It should be made with your best interest in mind.

On the other hand, it is relatively common that after a significant experience in a session or during the integration period, a motivation to share this experience with others can arise. You may have experienced a great benefit from this work, and would like to give others the awareness and the opportunity so that they might also benefit from the experience.

This is well-intentioned, and it’s helpful to ensure you provide relevant, accurate, and contextual information so that all individuals can make informed, effective decisions for their own healing processes.

Talking with Different “Stakeholders”

Just as with any interpersonal dynamics, you will likely have varying levels of relationships you wish to share more with. This could be: an intimate partner, close family members, interested friends, or inquisitive colleagues, or even sharing online in discussion groups.

These “expanding circles of care” can, and often do receive varying levels of openness and vulnerability from people. You share the most with the people you are closest with, and share more broad or general overviews with those who are further removed from your day-to-day life.

Relationship or close partners

Your partner may know a fair bit about this process, or they may not and this is something you’d like to bring up.

When sharing, it’s helpful to stick to what is true for you. What is true in your life that makes you interested in embarking on this healing journey? What did you experience that was beneficial or significant for you? No one can deny the truth of your own experience, and it is simply reporting or sharing what happened.

It can be helpful to share with your partner, at least at a high level, so that you can be supported throughout the process. Although this is individual work, you are not alone in this process, and having a robust support system around you throughout the process can be highly generative for your overall experience and outcomes, and this can start with a trusted partner.

Family members

Depending on your relationship with your family, this first circle of proxy is yours to decide how much you wish to share. If you’d like, you can say you’re embarking on a therapeutic experience, designed to help you reconnect with yourself and with the world, to become a more whole individual for those you care about.

You are working with experts, in structured experiences, to help unlock and unblock parts of yourself. If you’d like their support or understanding, you can choose to share more about the clinical or guided nature of the experience. If not, you don’t need to share anything you are not comfortable with.

As always, having a support network around you throughout this process can be helpful, but only if you find personal value in it.

Friends

Friends are often individuals that genuinely enjoy your presence and care about your wellbeing. If you are excited about this new healing journey, you can share with them. Oftentimes, some clients may notice that friends or family start to notice small or large shifts in personality, mood, or ways of acting. They may inquire as to what has brought this about, and you can share at whatever level you’re comfortable with.

You can say you’ve been doing some work on yourself, that you’re working in a new therapeutic model, or that you are moving through a psychedelic therapy protocol with a practitioner and a particular compound.

An important note here is just because you have shared some information, that does not obligate you to share everything. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, or don’t feel you have an adequate answer, you can simply decline to share further. Your friends are a support system, and they should honor that request.

Primary care providers

A core relationship that you may want to discuss psychedelic therapy with is your primary care provider, your family doctor, therapist, or relevant medical professionals. Some providers are receptive to augmenting your care with psychedelic therapy, while others may not have a definitive opinion on it, and others may be firmly against it.

First and foremost, it’s very helpful to bring this conversation to the surface. This is a new development that impacts your health and wellbeing, and it’s helpful for your primary care provider to have complete information so that they can also help make the best decisions for your ongoing healing and health.

If they have questions or concerns, pointing them to the current science, and explaining your rationale for starting this program are good starting points. However, this is not something you need to tackle yourself, and you can ask your psychedelic therapy practitioner to contact your primary care provider so that all parties can come to an agreement, understanding, and make the best decisions possible.

Acquaintances / general public

Regarding the broader public, it’s less likely that you are asked directly about your experience from someone, and more likely that you are excited or interested in sharing information publicly about your own experience. Here, it’s important to honor the experience, communicate contraindications, and the right contexts for individuals to embark on this work.

Despite some common parlance, psychedelic therapy is not a panacea or “magic pill” experience, and some individuals are not suited for psychedelic therapy. It’s important to remember these points as you go out and plan on sharing your experiences publicly.

Following the science, citing your sources, respecting the differences in people are all important notes to remember when beginning to share more publicly about your process and experiences.

Common Questions & Responses around Psychedelic Therapy

Is this psychotherapy?

This depends on the specific program you are working within. There are psychedelic-assisted psychotherapeutic programs that exist, where you work alongside a therapist in familiar talk therapy dynamics. The difference being that you’re being assisted by psychedelic medication to surface important insights or catalyze novel emotional states. If you are working in one of these programs, yes, this would qualify as traditional therapy.

Most often, the answer would likely point to the idea that these experiences are inherently therapeutic. They provide the structure and experiences that are beneficial in helping you understand more about yourself, heal disparate parts of yourself, and cultivate a deeper relationship with yourself, others, and the world around you. Some experiences, such as individual sessions, are not specifically therapy as they do not involve talk sessions with a licensed therapist, though they can absolutely provide therapeutic outcomes and benefits.

Many psychedelic therapy protocols and programs involve the combination of psychedelic medicine sessions, and interactions and discussions with trained clinicians, facilitators, guides, or practitioners.

Why are you doing this?

This is a highly personal question, and it’s up to you to determine the level and depth of information you are comfortable disclosing. Once again, this is your process, and you should not feel obligated to share anything. This is a personal decision and it can remain personal.

If you would like to share more, you can allude to the fact that you are working through some things personally, and have found a safe and effective method to help with that process.

You can mention it’s to augment and assist the existing personal and therapeutic work you’re already doing, or simply that you had found some supportive science around the experience and wanted to see if it could be beneficial for you.

What are the effects?

This is another question where it is at your discretion to disclose what you are comfortable with.

Sometimes this question can refer to what effects and/or benefits you have noticed in yourself personally. Other times, it can be a question to learn more about the potential effects of psychedelic therapy in general. It can be helpful to confirm the intent of the question if there is any confusion. If you’re not comfortable sharing your personal story, you can default to sharing some of the common effects and benefits that clients may see throughout a program.

Some potential effects and/or benefits of psychedelic therapy can include:

  • Deeper sense of self-acceptance, self-love, self-image
  • Improvement in baseline mood, reduced depressive / anxious symptoms
  • Novel insights, emotions, thoughts, feelings
  • Space to process and heal old trauma, habitual patterns, ways of behaving
  • Working through addictions or addictive tendencies

Is this safe / effective / legal / well tolerated?

It’s important to keep in mind that these answers will vary based on two main factors: the medicine that you are working with, and the specific program that you are embarking on.

Questions around safety, tolerability, and legality, these answers vary depending on the compound and the programming surrounding the experiences.

Safety

You can refer those inquiring to our article on ketamine safety for more information on the specifics of ketamine treatment. Also, you can refer to ketamine’s contraindications to demonstrate that if you are not contraindicated, psychedelic medicines themselves are well received and safe in the majority of individuals.

Effective

Psychedelic therapy has been growing in awareness and interest the past few years specifically due to its efficacy in treating a number of mental health conditions, including previously treatment-resistant cases. For a growing number of individuals and specific conditions like depression and anxiety, psychedelic therapy is proving highly effective in helping individuals on their journeys towards healing and wholeness.

Tolerability

Depending on the particular compound, psychedelic medicines are largely well-tolerated in healthy individuals. There are certainly contraindications —specific markers that would make someone ineligible or not recommended to use psychedelic therapy— but without those contraindications, psychedelic medicines are largely well-processed by the body with manageable side-effects in the short and long-term.

Legality

At the time of publication, ketamine is currently the only legal psychedelic medicine available to the general public. There are a number of other compounds and medicines moving through various stages of the approval process, though these are only available in academic or clinical studies at the time. If you are working with ketamine treatment in North America, or are in a country where the laws allow for, or are enrolled in a clinical study, these experiences are legal under clinical supervision.

Honoring Yourself and Your Process

If you do decide to share some of your story, some of the process, or a deeper look at psychedelic therapy protocols, here's a gentle reminder on how these messages may be received.

Depending on an individual's unique viewpoints, they may be doubtful, express concerns, question psychedelic therapy’s legitimacy, or they may not react in any major way. All of these are okay.

These reactions are not a reflection on you or your process, and it’s important to return to your direct experience, the feelings and outcomes you realized during your treatments. The validity of your experience is never in question, even in the face of doubt or concern from someone.

These can be grounds for fruitful conversation, but you do not need to “sell” anyone on the benefits. Your experience cannot be invalidated, and these experiences are not meant for all individuals. Overall, exercise discernment and personal sovereignty when opening and sharing your experiences with others.

Scientific Validation

There may be some well-intentioned individuals who become curious or passionate about what you’re doing and would like to explore this for themselves. You’re welcome to share any results, scientific validation and research, or any supporting points concerning psychedelic therapy.

Fortunately, there has been a host of studies over the decades within psychedelic therapy and ketamine treatment that point to the potential of these experiences and medicines to be catalysts and aids in mental health treatment and healing.

There are a host of resources on the Mindbloom website regarding ketamine treatment, including resources on the neuroscience of ketamine, various clinical studies, and explorations into ketamines ability to aid anxiety and depression, and direct stories from clients who have completed the program.

There are various universities and institutes who are spearheading ongoing research on the efficacy and potential of psychedelic therapy, in everything from inducing mystical experiences, smoking cessation, managing depression & anxiety, and many other symptoms.

These can serve as resources you can provide, and also become a gentle reminder that the academic and clinical worlds are now able to begin much deeper study into the use and outcomes of these experiences, and more science continues to emerge.

Conclusion

Psychedelic therapy can be transformative in individuals' lives. Whether it’s sharing stories publicly, or being asked or sharing directly with people in your life, it’s important to honor your own process, to follow the science and what it demonstrates, and to exercise your own boundaries and discernment.

Your work in this field is beautiful and individual, you are not obligated to share, though it can be very beneficial to have a support system and to open up to others who you care about. With a balanced approach, and with an open heart, you can begin to open up these conversations to more people, and bring psychedelic therapy to those who stand to benefit from it.

Disclaimer

Sources

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Important FDA Safety Information

Ketamine is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or anxiety. Learn more about off-label uses here.

Side effects of ketamine treatment may include: altered sense of time, anxiety, blurred vision, diminished ability to see/hear/feel, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure, excitability, loss of appetite, mental confusion, nausea/vomiting, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), restlessness, slurred speech, synesthesia (a mingling of the senses).

Do not proceed with ketamine treatment if any of the following apply to you:

  • Allergic to ketamine
  • Symptoms of psychosis or mania
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • CHF or other serious heart problem
  • Severe breathing problem
  • History of elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure
  • History of hyperthyroidism
  • Other serious medical illness
  • Pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant

Ketamine has been reported to produce issues including, but not limited to, those listed below. However, lasting adverse side-effects are rare when medical protocols are carefully followed.

While ketamine has not been shown to be physically addictive, it has been shown to cause moderate psychological dependency in some recreational users.

  • In rare cases, frequent, heavy users have reported increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, pain urinating, passing blood in the urine, or reduced bladder size
  • Ketamine may worsen problems in people with schizophrenia, severe personality disorders, or other serious mental disorders.
  • Users with a personal or family history of psychosis should be cautious using any psychoactive substance, including ketamine, and discuss potential risks with your MindBloom clinician before proceeding with treatment.
  • The dissociative effects of ketamine may increase patient vulnerability and the risk of accidents.

To promote positive outcomes and ensure safety, follow these ketamine treatment guidelines:

  • Do not operate a vehicle (e.g., car, motorcycle, bicycle) or heavy machinery following treatment until you’ve had a full night of sleep
  • Refrain from taking benzodiazepines or stimulants for 24 hours prior to treatment
  • Continue to take antihypertensive medication as prescribed
  • Avoid hangovers or alcohol intake
  • Refrain from consuming solid foods within 3 hours prior to treatment and liquids within 1 hour prior to treatment
  • Ketamine treatment should never be conducted without a monitor present to ensure your safety
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How Do I Explain Psychedelic Therapy to Someone?